Toes are often an unappreciated part of your body
If you are a Facebook follower, you know that a myriad of posts crop up on people’s pages. Some are political, some are R-rated, some are rude, some are hysterical and some are just plain cute.
Here is one I saw yesterday: A toddler, looking directly at the camera with an angry but quizzical expression on his face is captioned by, ”You mean to tell me that my toes are NOT piggies??” It got me thinking about toes.
As the colder weather approaches and we put our sandals away and stuff our feet into shoes, it may be beneficial to pay a little attention to our toes before they disappear for the winter. Read on for some potential toe problems to be aware of.
A quick reminder for those with diabetes: any toe or foot condition needs to be assessed by your health care provider. Because of the decreased circulation in the feet that often accompanies diabetes, what is a minor issue for non-diabetics can become a huge problem for those with the condition.
A fairly common and more bothersome than serious toe complaint is corns and calluses. These are areas on the feet and toes where pressure or friction has caused the skin to thicken. Corns are found on the tops of the feet and toes, calluses on the bottom and sides.
These can be left alone if they aren’t causing any symptoms. If they become painful, they can be minimized with the gentle use of a pumice stone after a bath or shower.
Another treatment is to use padding around these areas to keep the friction from occurring in the first place. If that does not solve the problem, a health care provider can usually quickly deal with them.
Bunions are a fairly common foot deformity that can be quite painful if left untreated, although some people never experience pain with this disorder. A bunion looks like a bump on the joint where the big piggy (oops, toe) connects to the foot.
The big toe leans toward the second toe instead of pointing straight ahead. The farther the toe leans, the more that joint is pushed out of alignment, making the bump appear larger.
Symptoms can include pain, swelling, burning or numbness at the joint. For some bunions, ibuprofen, ice and rest are enough to tame the symptoms. For others, surgery is required to realign the joint.
This same condition can occur on the outside of the foot at the joint between the foot and little toe. It is called a bunionette and has the same causes and treatments as a regular bunion.
Claw toe is exactly as it sounds: the toe bends up at the first joint, then bends back down at the second and sometimes the third, curling the toe around so the tip of the toe rubs on the sole of the shoe. This rubbing can cause irritation, corns, calluses or even open sores on the affected toes.
Claw toe is often caused by structural changes in the foot over time that lead to an imbalance between the muscles and tendons of the toe. Other contributing factors are ill-fitting shoes, nerve damage due to diabetes or alcoholism, trauma to the toe or chronic inflammation.
Treatment of claw toe begins with taping or splinting the toe, exercises and stretching it towards its normal position. Ibuprofen and ice can help reduce any pain or swelling that may occur. Padding can be helpful in reducing the friction between toe and shoe.
The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons recommends that claw toe sufferers avoid shoes with high heels or pointed toes (exactly what is in style right now for women), instead choosing shoes with roomy toe areas and heels no higher than two inches.
Custom orthotics may be recommended to help control the motion of the foot and provide support to improve the muscle-tendon imbalance. Sometimes surgery is required to repair and realign the toes.
Hammertoe is similar to claw toe except the toe does not curl all the way around at the end. The causes are similar to claw toe and similarly, this condition will not resolve on its own. Treatment follows the same guidelines as claw toe.
Check your piggies before you put them away for the winter. If something is amiss, you can address it over the winter so when the sandals and the sun come back out next spring (OK, summer) you are ready to bare them to the world.
Pam Maxson is a health educator at Noyes Hospital in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, she can be reached at 335-4327 or by e-mail.